Bilingualism and Special Needs

The third in our series on bilingualism by Millie Slavidou deals with bilingualism and special needs. If you missed the first two parts, you can find them here – 7 Reasons to Bring up Your Kids Bilingual and Supporting Bilingualism in Tweens and Teens. Parents of children with special needs frequently find they need to grow a thick skin to deal with all the ignorance and comments directed at them, and this is especially true in a bilingual family. As a mother of a child with special needs myself, bringing him up in a bilingual family has been a challenge. I have been accused of deliberately trying to sabotage his development through speaking my own language to him! Even health care professionals can be incredibly negative about bilingualism, and it is very common for speech and language therapists to advise parents to use only one language at home. On one memorable occasion, my son’s case worker at the Centre for Mental Health told me that she would refuse to refer my son for speech therapy if I insisted on speaking a second language to him. “Speech and language therapy,” she declared, “can only be done in one language.” Of course, I requested a new case worker. Child psychologists are also frequently known to be against the idea of speaking more than one language at home. So why do I persist in doing so? Well, there is no reason not to speak two languages to a person who happens to have special needs. International studies have shown only benefits and not drawbacks to the use of two languages, … Continue reading Bilingualism and Special Needs